Feedback is an important factor for successful student learning. It shows students their current level of performance relative to learning goals or outcomes and lets them know what they need to do to improve. It also enables students to think about the learning involved in a task and not just the activity of completing a task.
For feedback to be effective, students must be able to understand the information being conveyed. Providing feedback in accessible ways ensures that students have equal access to the information being shared with them so that they can apply it to future learning.
At the start of the semester, clarify:
- the role that feedback will play on your course;
- the types of feedback that you will offer;
- when students can expect to receive feedback; and
- where they will be able to access it.
This will help to give students a clearer sense of what to expect from you and will likely help to reduce their anxiety regarding assessment in your course.
Ask students if the type of feedback you are providing works for them.
For example, if you intend to provide video feedback, provide a way for students to request written feedback instead. This gives students the opportunity to let you know what their needs are.
Provide Timely and Frequent Feedback
To be effective, feedback needs to be given regularly, and as close to the learning and assessment task as possible (“Feedback and Reporting”, 2020). This will have the greatest impact as students will be able to recall their efforts more easily, act on the feedback, and adjust their learning accordingly. When you deliver timely feedback, it lets students know that you are actively involved and gives them the reassurance that you are committed to their ongoing development as learners.
If you are providing feedback during a classroom activity or discussion, vary the way questions are asked and how answers can be provided to ensure students are able to participate and provide evidence of their level of understanding (“Feedback and Reporting”, 2020).
Use a Marking Guide/Rubric
Using a marking guide or rubric, can help to speed up your grading, while also helping to structure and organize your feedback to students. This will help to ensure your feedback is consistent and provide a clear rationale for the feedback you are giving.
Marking guides or rubrics provide students with clear goals and success criteria (Pearson Education, 2016).
This will make it easier for students to understand where your feedback is coming from and show them clear ways they can improve.
Example Marking Guide/Rubric
|Needs Improvement -/0
|Argument is specific and original and critically engages with the technology, application, or activity.
|Argument is specific and critically engages with the technology, application, or activity.
|Argument is included but is vague, obvious, or simplistic.
|No argument is included.
|The analysis provides thorough and convincing support/evidence and applies key concepts from class resources to the argument.
|The analysis provides adequate support/evidence and applies at least one key concept from class resources to the argument.
|The analysis provides cursory support/evidence and notes key concepts, but does not connect, specifically to class resources.
|The analysis provides minimal support/evidence and does not note or apply class concepts.
|The analysis has clear and effective organizational structure, creating cohesion and coherence.
|The analysis has an evident organizational structure, through some connections may be loose or weak.
|The analysis has an inconsistent organizational structure with evident flaws.
|The analysis has little or no obvious organizational structure.
Provide Actionable Feedback on Performance
The feedback provided should clearly refer to the learning goals and success criteria of the assessment/course. It should offer both constructive and positive suggestions and help guide students in what they could have done better.
Focus on behavior. Try to avoid generic comments, like “good work”, and instead point out specific strengths of the student’s work and concrete improvements that they can make next time. Be mindful that some students might find feedback overwhelming.
Minimizing Cognitive Load
Minimizing the cognitive load will help students who feel like this and increase understanding (Pearson Education, 2016).
Strategies to reduce cognitive load include:
- limiting the number of assessment criteria,
- prioritizing the areas of improvement,
- presenting complex feedback in sequential steps, and
- focusing on two or three important suggestions (Pearson Education, 2016, p6.).
Use Plain and Simple Language
Using plain and simple language helps students understand and use the information you are giving them. Where possible, choose a simple word or phrase, over a complex one. Provide an explanation or definition for any bureaucratic, technical, or legal terms you are using.
For more guidance, review The Center for Plain Language resources.
Make it User-Friendly
Feedback should be delivered in a way that makes it easy to understand. Conduct feedback using different methods to make it accessible to a variety of learning styles. Here’s a video that discusses strategies for providing video feedback for students.
Whichever method you use, ensure that it is accessible to the audience. Plan ahead and prepare your feedback in an accessible manner so that it can be provided in various alternative formats. This is helpful for learners who may require materials in a variety of ways. Providing accessible formats reduces the need for specialized accommodations, improves learning, and conveys to your learners that you are invested in their success.
Consider How Your Feedback Will Be Perceived
Be mindful that some students may perceive feedback differently and may not know how to interpret constructive criticism of their work. A strategy called wise feedback helps to frame feedback in a way that communicates that students can meet high expectations and gives concrete direction for how to meet the expectations.
In their Humanizing Online Learning webinar series, Pacansky-Brock describes how the three components of wise feedback can help to build trust and increase student engagement:
- References high standards, which effectively diffuses the perception that negative feedback may be related to one’s identity;
- Assures students of your belief in their ability to achieve the objective, which validates students’ self-efficacy;
- Includes specific, actionable steps for your student to effectively make these improvements, which ensures that students won’t repeat their same pattern of action (Pacansky-Brock, 2021, p34).
For more details and examples of wise feedback, review Motivate Lab’s guidance on Wise framing for feedback.